Non-smoking in public spaces in Japan

Japan is way behind the US when it comes to non-smoking in public spaces. At last, Japan is heading to this (asahi.com in Japanese).
The most annoying thing while in Japan is a smoke-filled cafe! So many cafes and restaurants still allow smoking with a loose separation between smoking and non-smoking areas or even no separation at all that I hesitate to enjoy a coffee break.

In Japan, you can buy tabacco packages at a vending machine (the regulation on buying at a vending machine is getting tightened, though).

I'm very happy that most US states ban smoking in public spaces (List of smoking bans in the United States on Wikipedia). It's much less frequent in the US than in Japan that I get annoyed with somkes.


Carrie Underwood - Superbowl XLIV National Anthem

Yes, I love Carrie Underwood and I missed her National Anthem in Superbowl XLIV. I didn't know that the show would begin at 6:30pm.
So here is the one on YouTube. Always big voice and long breath. Amazing!


Only 3,000 tigers dwindling

According to the WWF report, wild tigers may go extinct within a generation. See the depressing map on a CNN article showing the past and present ranges of the tigers. A dismal fact is that there are more captive tigers than in the wild.
This year is "Year of the Tiger."


La Fille du Régiment

I watched La Fille du Régiment by Donizetti at Met. It was comically performed and very funny. At the same time, so beautifully some of the songs were sung, I fell in love with this relatively unknown opera. The two leading singers, Diana Damrau (Marie) and Juan Diego Flórez (Tonio), did a great job. One of Flórez's arias in Act I was so impressive that the ovation lasted for minutes. I also liked a full range of emotion by Damrau.
The Met Orchestra was superb as always.
Another surprise is that the famous Kiri Te Kanawa took a role of the Duchess of Krakenthorp in Act II. I didn't know this and wondered why the audience gave her applause before she sang. (^^;


From H-1 to J-1

I have switched my visa status from H-1 to J-1, which is valid from Feburary. An H-1 holder is allowed to stay in the US for up to 6 years and I consumed it at the end of January. To stay longer in the US, I decided to apply for a J-1 status,which allows you to stay in the US for 5 years.
It is not uncommon to switch from J-1 to H-1 but it seems much less common the other way around. But I didn't have any problem getting a J-1 visa. You could transfer your status from H-1 to J-1 while in the US. However, I was told that it would be more complicated and take a longer time than applying for J-1 afresh in Japan, which I did. I got a J-1 visa in a week.
When entering the US, I presented my J-1 visa stamp and DS-2019 and got I-94 with D/S (Duration of Status).